The Nabateans founded Petra over 2,000 years ago. However, it was rediscovered in 1812, which is why people sometimes refer to it as ‘The Lost City of Petra’. It is a myriad of temples, tombs and caves located in the rugged desert of southwestern Jordan. It is also an endangered travel destination, so if you want to see it, you should start planning your visit sooner rather than later. To help you plan, or if you are just intrigued by this remarkable city, here are some of the most interesting facts about Petra in Jordan.
7 Interesting Facts about Petra in Jordan
1. Petra is a rock-carved ancient city
Petra is a myriad of temples, tombs and caves carved from dusky pink sandstone. This is why Petra is sometimes called the ‘Rose City’. These elaborate structures were chiselled by hand, starting from the top down. They were then covered with stucco and painted bright colours.
2. The Nabateans founded Petra
The Nabateans, an ancient Arab people, founded this archaeological site over 2,000 years ago. Petra was an important point along the ancient trade routes. As the trade market grew, so did the city. For a price, the Nabateans provided water and shelter to the foreign traders at Petra. The monies collected made Petra a very wealthy city as well as a centre of trade and a cultural centre in the ancient world.
3. Just 15% of Petra is uncovered
The city of Petra sprawls over a hundred square miles, which is four times the size of Manhattan. Around 85% of the city is still underground and hasn’t been excavated. At the height of Nabataean power, the city of Petra was the capital and around 20,000 people lived there.
4. Petra was never really ‘lost’
The Romans invaded and took control of Petra in 106 A.D. From then on, and as new sea trade routes emerged, Petra’s influence waned. Then, in the year 363, an earthquake destroyed many of the city’s structures. The Byzantines then took control of Petra for around 300 years. By the eighth century A.D., most of the inhabitants left and abandoned Petra. For the next few centuries, nomadic shepherds used the caves for shelter when passing through the area. Then, in 1812, Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt ‘rediscovered’ Petra and ‘The Lost City’ became known to the western world.
5. The Treasury is really a mausoleum
The Treasury is one of the most elaborate structures in Petra and one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The Arabic name is Al-Khazneh, meaning Treasury. Locals believed there was treasure inside the building. However, the Nabateans originally built it as a mausoleum and crypt. They decorated with various mythological figures associated with the afterlife. On the second level of the building, you can see an urn. If you look closely you can see bullet holes in the urn. Apparently, local Bedouin people shot at the urn hoping its treasure would pour out.
Bonus fact: Steven Spielberg filmed scenes in front of the Treasury for the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
6. The main entrance to the city is through The Siq
You enter the City of Petra by walking through the dramatic Siq Canyon. Colourful, high cliffs flank each side of this 1.2km-long narrow gorge which then opens up to reveal the fantastic façade of the Treasury.
7. Petra is a wonder of the world
In 1985, UNESCO named Petra a World Heritage Site. In 2007, the public voted Petra onto the list of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It made the cut from 21 finalists.